Aggression – One Of The Most Feared Dog Behavior Problems

One thing that many dog owners fear is when their dog shows sign of aggression.  There are many dog behavior problems that owners deal with but aggression is the one that usually ends up with the dog being surrendered to a shelter.

Dog Behavioural Problems
dog in shelter

I would have to say that the majority of dogs are aggressive by nature.  Breeders have for years tried to breed the aggression out of our dogs and have had a degree of success.  But a dog’s aggression is an instinct that they have had since the beginning of time.  It is their survival instinct.

Years ago dogs hunted for food, fought to protect their territory and their mate.  They also fought their pack members for their position in the pack.  Maintaining the alpha  position did not come easy especially as one aged.

An older dog back then would appreciate what the dog of today has mainly two meals a day a nice roof over his head and no need to protect the pack – now he is being protected.

At least that is what it should be like!

Types of Aggression

There are various types of dog aggression.  Some types of aggression we see in male dogs more than female dogs and some we see in adult dogs and not puppies.

Possessive Aggressive – this type of aggression can be found in males and females, adults and puppies. Just as the name suggests this type of aggression happens when a dog has something like a toy and will not let anyone or anything come near it or have it. This type of behavior can also happen with food.

Puppies are often fed with one large food dish.  The puppy that eats the most will grow faster and grow stronger quicker.  If the owner does not catch this in time the puppy hogging the food is inadvertently being rewarded and will more than likely develop food aggressive tendency later on.

One way to avert this behavior is when you bring your puppy home and they are not displaying any guarding issues is to feed them by hand.  Give your puppy one kibble at a time and speak to him in a calm and gentle voice and also lightly stroke him.

Later you can put his food bowl in your lap and let him eat from there all the while talking to him and gently stroking him.

When you finally put your dog’s dish on the floor make sure you have some very tasty treats and while he is eating his kibble drop a couple of the tasty morsels in his dish.

By doing this for the first few months that you have your puppy should teach him you are not a threat and he will be relaxed when you are around while he is eating.

Social Aggression  – This type of aggression can also be called dominant aggression.  This type of behavior is more common in male dogs than females and more common in purebred dogs than mixed breeds.  This behavior can start between the ages of one to three years old.  Puppies may display this behavior towards other dogs but rarely towards people at this young age.

Dog Aggression
social aggression

This type of behavior is displayed when the dog believes they are the alpha or at least higher in the pack then some of the family members.  That is why the dog can be fine with one member of the family but not others.  Everyone in the family needs to be higher in the pack than the dog to prevent this behaviour from happening.

Redirected Aggression –  This behavior is found in both male and female and adults and puppies.  An example of this behavior would be when your dog is showing signs of aggression towards another dog or person and someone interferes and the dog turns its aggression to the person interfering.

Pain Aggression – This type of aggression can occur in male, female, adult and puppy.  If you ever watch a show based on rescuing injured animals you can understand why an injured dog will lash out.  Most times the dog needs to be muzzled so it can get the help it needs.  Lashing out is usually the only way the dog has to communicate where the pain is coming from.  This type of aggression is not something that you need to worry about.

Sex-Related Aggression – This behavior can occur in females who have not been spayed and intact males.  It can also occur in males and females who were fixed as adults.  This type of aggression happens between males and females when they are seeking attention when the female is in heat.  The dogs are usually between the ages of one to three years of age.  I have seen male dogs travel for miles when they get a whiff of a female in heat.  If you have a female dog that is not fixed you need to keep a close eye on her when she comes into heat.  You do not want any accidents to happen.

Predatory Aggression – Some dogs have a very high prey drive.  They are very into chasing, catching and killing small furry or feathered animal.  Remember they did not always have meals fed to them, they at one time needed to go and catch their own meal.  This type of aggression becomes a problem when they start to chase people on bikes, cars, joggers and even other pets in the household.

Dog Behavioural Problems
predatory aggression


Now that we have looked at various types of aggression what do we do about it?

Your first defence towards an aggressive dog starts when your dog is a puppy.  There are many things you can do with your puppy that is going to help prevent aggression from ever rearing its ugly head.

Many first time dog owners think it is funny when you wrestle with your new puppy.  You grab at the puppy use him to wipe the floor, slide him away, all the while he gets mad and starts barking and growling at you, maybe even lunging at you trying to nip you.  It’s all in fun and he is small enough that he can’t do any damage to you – yet.

Fast forward six months from now.  That puppy that you could handle due to his small size is now- a lot bigger and in his mind rough play is acceptable.  Play for him is lunging and nipping, barking and growling.  It is really not safe to be around him now.  Your puppy has now become an aggressive dog that is not safe to be around.  Will this type of owner put the time in to now properly train this dog and hopefully be able to control the dog’s aggressive tendencies?

Since this owner did not take the time to find out about how to properly raise a puppy I highly doubt they will be willing to invest the time into the dog.

This dog will more than likely end up in a shelter with very little chance of adoption.

This could have been totally prevented.  First your puppy needs to be totally socialized.  Once they have had all their shots get them out into the world to face as many different scenarios as possible.   Get them to meet as many new people as possible as well as other dogs.  Make sure the dogs they are meeting are not aggressive.

Also when your puppy is very young get all the members of the family to take turns hand feeding the puppy.  You are training them to take food gently and not lunging and biting when around food.

When your puppy jumps on you or your children do not hit the puppy to get off instead holler “OUCH” and turn away from the puppy and walk away.  Puppies want to be part of the pack.  Separating them from the pack is a good punishment.

Dog Behavioural Problems
hitting dog

Physically punishing your puppy for bad behaviour is not the way to go.  If your puppy is displaying aggressive behaviour you need to redirect his behavior.  The puppy will soon learn that he needs to be more gentle in order to have some play time.

Some puppies are very active and they seem to have tremendous amounts of unlimited energy.  Puppies like this are great candidates for sports like fly ball and agility.  These sports are a sure way to drain some of that energy from your puppy.

Remember a tired dog is a good dog!

What to do when the dog seems to be aggressive towards one particular family member?

Most people’s initial response to this question is to keep the dog and the person away from each other.  This is just what you should not do.  The problem here is the dog believes he is higher in the pack than the person.  He needs to learn that he is actually lower in the pack.

You can achieve this by getting the individual to become the dog’s sole provider.  This person will feed the dog, walk the dog, play with the dog etc.  Everything the dog needs he will only get from this particular individual.

This individual must also take over the training of the dog.  It is imperative that he can train the dog to do the basics especially the down command, as this is a very submissive position.

Dog Aggression
down stay command

All other members of the family are to totally ignore the dog.  The dog needs to learn that there is only one individual that he can get anything from and everything he gets he now has to earn.

Even though you have worked very hard and your dog does not seem to be showing any aggressive behaviour many believe that the dog can never be truly trusted.

Remember that next time you go to play rough with your new puppy.  Your life will continue as you age will your puppy ever reach his senior years?

Raising a puppy to be a Good Canine Citizen means that your puppy needs to learn his proper place in the pack.  A lot of the above aggression issues could have been truly avoided if you had been the pack leader.

No one explains how to be the pack leader better than Doggy Dan.  If you want to raise your puppy right and become the pack leader then you need to check out Doggy Dan.

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    • Austin
    • August 11, 2017

    Great article. I love dogs a lot, but am never sure how they will react around me as I am a bigger guy and I know so often that I can be intimidating to dogs of all sizes. It is cool to know that there is different reasons that a dog may act aggressively as well. Even loving dogs and being around them my whole life I have struggled with understanding behaviors and why they may act out.

      • Maureen
      • August 15, 2017

      Hey Austin Dogs can be complicated.  Sometimes it is very hard to figure out why they do the things they do.  When you are dealing with an aggression you are best to seek the help of a professional.  An aggressive dog can be a walking time bomb and that type of dog around small children is not a good mix.

    • Cheryl
    • August 11, 2017

    Thank you for this very good and informative post about aggression in dogs. I did not realise there was so many different types of aggression but I did understand a lot of the things you were speaking on.

    Having a small dog of my own, makes me very wary when I take him out and we meet other dogs. He does generally like meeting other dogs but is very wary around big dogs as he was chased one day when my husband had him out.

    I think people with dogs would really find this article very interesting and especially more so if they have a dog showing aggressive tendencies.

      • Maureen
      • August 15, 2017

      Thanks for your comment Cheryl.  Sorry to hear that your little dog was chased by a bigger dog.  Things like that do have an effect on the dog.  I would recommend keeping him on a leash when introducing him to other dogs especially large dogs.  When you are sure they are going to get along then mayb e you can let them loose to play but still keep an eye out. 

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